blur and it comes as a surprise the amount of theatre I manage to see in a year. 2007 seemed a slow year in my memory until I went back through the diary and found I had seen more than one hundred theatre events.
I am struck by the amount of new work by Waterford writers and this seems to have been a bumper year by any standards. Standouts are Bryan Flynn’s musical ‘Michael Collins’ and Jim Nolan’s ‘Sky Road.’
It is an amazing task to get a new musical to production stage and to get a hometown production at the Theatre Royal. With ‘Michael Collins,’ Bryan Flynn made history as his previous show ‘Pentimenti’ also premiered on the Mall some years ago. This Collins show opened up new possibilities in music and theatre for Flynn in a very productive year, in which he directed two major pantos, two top class productions of ‘High School Musical’ and a first rate grand opera, ‘Don Giovanni’ for Cork Opera 2005.
Jim Nolan’s new play ‘Sky Road’ at the Theatre Royal was a major achievement for a playwright in his early middle period. His inspiration and depth in dealing with a contemporary topic of politics and family was a revelation and a triumph.
This was a year when we got a new Pat Daly play, ‘Ugly Betty,’ and a brilliant new production at Garter Lane of Marian Ingoldsby’s children’s’ opera, ‘Lily’s Labyrinth.’ Waterford-born Liam Heylin had a new play produced in Cork. Jim Daly’s new play ‘To leap from Paradise’ was a life-affirming experience. Then there was a trio of young playwrights: Adam Wallace hit the right notes with ‘Dix Points,’ a snappy play with a Eurosong theme. Kieran Stewart impressed again with ‘Dixie and the Angels’ and Alex McAllister had a local hit and national tour with ‘Roy – A footballer’s tale.’
The Wallace and Stewart plays were staged by the company Stagemad, who are just about ready for the step to a professional company, if the arts council would just realise their merits and give them €30,000 seed money over two years. Stagemad, on small money, also staged ‘Michael Cleary’ and are bringing it to New York in January. They also revived the wonderful James Cheasty play ‘Prisoners of Silence.’ There was also a new Dave Duggan play as Gaeilge, ‘Gruaigairi’ at Garter Lane.
During the year the inspirational work of David Hennessy impressed with an AIMS award winning ‘Into the Woods.’ Creativity overcame budgetary limitations with two splendid youth productions with amazing and magical sets from Paul Barry. Successful ‘JNR’ was great visual fun and the recent ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at Garter Lane was not only a wow and a double wow, but a triple wow.
Red Kettle Theatre Company excelled with a Little Red kettle show, but ran into problems trying to put a dream into a tent in November. Pragmatism might not be a strong point with theatre companies but subsidised theatre companies need more than imagination and must take audiences into account more. I am glad I got to see ‘Ridley Walker’ but it would have been better in Garter Lane.
Waterford Dramatic Society
Waterford Dramatic Society staged two plays at Garter Lane. An excellent ‘Red Roses And Petrol’ and a brave but flawed ‘Home of Bernard Alba.’
Youth work came to the fore with a packed-to-the-rafters production of ‘High School Musical’ from Flaggy Lane at the Forum. Tramore had a wow with ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and Michael Joseph O’Brien shone with Ann O’Riordan in this Damien O’Brien production. De La Salle College had a fine rocking’ revival of Jesus Christ Superstar,’ with Katie Honan and Greg Porter in excellent form. De La Salle old boy, Jamie Beamish, played the lead in a national tour of ‘I Keano’ and returns to that role in January 2008. Carrick-on-Suir had a fine ‘Lonesome West’ and a premiere production of ‘The Witches of Eastwick.’
An American production of ‘The Most Happy Fella’ won the Opera Festival in an important year and audiences were impressed by ‘Follies,’ ‘Grand Hotel,’ ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and a quirky ‘Batboy, The Musical.’ Due to renovations at the Theatre Royal there will be no festival in 2008 and hopefully the festival’s 50th year will happen in 2009. Unconfirmed rumours just won’t go away and I hope this wonderful event will not wither on the vine of change.
Wexford Opera Festival went into a super-summer tent at Johnstown Castle and wowed audiences with a mix of posh-events, strawberries and cream, champagne and fine opera. Their new opera house will come on-stream in 2008 and with 750 seats will attract Waterford patrons.
Lismore launched a new weekend event, ‘1,2,3 Festival,’ to celebrate local and regional amateur theatre and the inaugural event promises much for the future in a town that is an arts and tourist gem. Vanessa Hyde is the driving force behind this initiative.
IT was a quiet year for the visual arts. There was an excellent Annie Brophy photographic show in Christ Church Cathedral. Two WIT students caught the eye with a ‘Macbeth exhibition’ at the Granary and the Irish audio-visual show at Greyfriars. A Helenwein show at Greyfriars brought an international level to Waterford but the ‘Titled/Untitled’ show at Lismore Castle Arts, was the truly international experience in the most unlikely of locations in the castle and grounds. Modern video installations created a mystery tour of stables and outhouses and this was contrasted with impressive portraiture in the new gallery space.
As we lost the excellent Dyehouse Gallery we got the new Mary Street Gallery while the new Manifesto emporium is a treat for the senses.
The Sea Dunne Writers’ Festival brought Dave Lordan to Waterford and Alan Garvey published his fine new collection and also managed to place his work in the March Hare Anthology. The impressive the ‘Echoing Years,’ us a collection of Irish And Canadian poems with a wonderful multi-cultural scope. This masterwork was part three in the impressive set of anthologies from the driving force of John Ennis at WIT and marks a significant milestone in academic, social and cultural writing.
Such is the privilege and pleasure of this job, that I get to see memorable work that doesn’t fall into easy categories like the amazing Organ festival at Christ Church where Thomas Heywood and Eric Sweeney were world class. I saw a gem Talking Chords in Carrick and an amazing dance piece Aqua Luna choreographed by Libby Seward.
It is customary for me to award non-existent awards for my best choices in the year and I may as well continue the process.
Best performer Male:
Best Performer Female:
Best Arts Event: Caitlin Doherty
(Lismore Castle Arts)
Best Literary Event: John Ennis
Best Venue: Garter Lane
Best Director: Bryan Flynn
Best Gallery: Manifesto
Best Play: Sky Road
Best Musical: Michael Collins
Best Children’s Event:
Alice in Wonderland.